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Example File Systems

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This chapter excerpt from Modern Operating Systems discusses several example file systems, ranging from quite simple to highly sophisticated. Since modern UNIX file systems and Windows 2000's native file system are covered in later articles on UNIX and Windows 2000, we will not cover those systems here. We will, however, examine their predecessors below.
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6.4.1 CD-ROM File Systems

As our first example of a file system, let us consider the file systems used on CD-ROMs. These systems are particularly simple because they were designed for write-once media. Among other things, for example, they have no provision for keeping track of free blocks because on a CD-ROM files cannot be freed or added after the disk has been manufactured. Below we will take a look at the main CD-ROM file system type and two extensions to it.

The ISO 9660 File System

The most common standard for CD-ROM file systems was adopted as an International Standard in 1988 under the name ISO 9660. Virtually every CD-ROM currently on the market is compatible with this standard, sometimes with the extensions to be discussed below. One of the goals of this standard was to make every CD-ROM readable on every computer, independent of the byte ordering used and independent of the operating system used. As a consequence, some limitations were placed on the file system to make it possible for the weakest operating systems then in use (such as MS-DOS) to read it.

CD-ROMs do not have concentric cylinders the way magnetic disks do. Instead there is a single continuous spiral containing the bits in a linear sequence (although seeks across the spiral are possible). The bits along the spiral are divided into logical blocks (also called logical sectors) of 2352 bytes. Some of these are for preambles, error correction, and other overhead. The payload portion of each logical block is 2048 bytes. When used for music, CDs have leadins, leadouts, and intertrack gaps, but these are not used for data CD-ROMs. Often the position of a block along the spiral is quoted in minutes and seconds. It can be converted to a linear block number using the conversion factor of 1 sec = 75 blocks.

ISO 9660 supports CD-ROM sets with as many as 216 - 1 CDs in the set. The individual CD-ROMs may also be partitioned into logical volumes (partitions). However, below we will concentrate on ISO 9660 for a single unpartitioned CD-ROM.

Every CD-ROM begins with 16 blocks whose function is not defined by the ISO 9660 standard. A CD-ROM manufacturer could use this area for providing a bootstrap program to allow the computer to be booted from the CD-ROM, or for some other purpose. Next comes one block containing the primary volume descriptor, which contains some general information about the CD-ROM. Among this information are the system identifier (32 bytes), volume identifier (32 bytes), publisher identifier (128 bytes), and data preparer identifier (128 bytes). The manufacturer can fill in these fields in any desired way, except that only upper case letters, digits, and a very small number of punctuation marks may be used to ensure cross-platform compatibility.

The primary volume descriptor also contains the names of three files, which may contain the abstract, copyright notice, and bibliographic information, respectively. In addition, certain key numbers are also present, including the logical block size (normally 2048, but 4096, 8192, and larger powers of two are allowed in certain cases), the number of blocks on the CD-ROM, and the creation and expiration dates of the CD-ROM. Finally, the primary volume descriptor also contains a directory entry for the root directory, telling where to find it on the CD-ROM (i.e., which block it starts at). From this directory, the rest of the file system can be located.

In addition to the primary volume descriptor, a CD-ROM may contain a supplementary volume descriptor. It contains similar information to the primary, but that will not concern us here.

The root directory, and all other directories for that matter, consists of a variable number of entries, the last of which contains a bit marking it as the final one. The directory entries themselves are also variable length. Each directory entry consists of 10 to 12 fields, some of which are in ASCII and others of which are numerical fields in binary. The binary fields are encoded twice, once in little-endian format (used on example). Thus a 16-bit number uses 4 bytes and a 32-bit number uses 8 bytes. The use of this redundant coding was necessary to avoid hurting anyone's feelings when the standard was developed. If the standard had dictated little endian, then people from companies with big-endian products would have felt like second-class citizens and would not have accepted the standard. The emotional content of a CD-ROM can thus be quantified and measured exactly in kilobytes/hour of wasted space.

The format of an ISO 9660 directory entry is illustrated in Fig. 6-1. Since directory entries have variable lengths, the first field is a byte telling how long the entry is. This byte is defined to have the high-order bit on the left to avoid any ambiguity.

Directory entries may optionally have an extended attributes. If this feature is used for a directory entry, the second byte tells how long the extended attributes are.

Next comes the starting block of the file itself. Files are stored as contiguous runs of blocks, so a file's location is completely specified by the starting block and the size, which is contained in the next field.

The date and time that the CD-ROM was recorded is stored in the next field, with separate bytes for the year, month, day, hour, minute, second, and time zone. Years begin to count at 1900, which means that CD-ROMs will suffer from a Y2156 problem because the year following 2155 will be 1900. This problem could have been delayed by defining the origin of time to be 1988 (the year the standard was adopted). Had that been done, the problem would have been postponed until 2244. Every 88 extra years helps.

Figure 6-1 The ISO 9660 directory enty.

The Flags field contains a few miscellaneous bits, including one to hide the entry in listings (a feature copied from MS-DOS), one to distinguish an entry that is a file from an entry that is a directory, one to enable the use of the extended attributes, and one to mark the last entry in a directory. A few other bits are also present in this field but they will not concern us here. The next field deals with interleaving pieces of files in a way that is not used in the simplest version of ISO 9660, so we will not consider it further.

The next field tells which CD-ROM the file is located on. It is permitted that a directory entry on one CD-ROM refers to a file located on another CD-ROM in the set. In this way it is possible to build a master directory on the first CD-ROM that lists all the files on all the CD-ROMs in the complete set.

The field marked L in Fig. 6-1 gives the size of the file name in bytes. It is followed by the file name itself. A file name consists of a base name, a dot, an extension, a semicolon, and a binary version number (1 or 2 bytes). The base name and extension may use upper case letters, the digits 0–9, and the underscore character. All other characters are forbidden to make sure that every computer can handle every file name. The base name can be up to eight characters; the extension can be up to three characters. These choices were dictated by the need to be MS-DOS compatible. A file name may be present in a directory multiple times, as long as each one has a different version number.

The last two fields are not always present. The Padding field is used to force every directory entry to be an even number of bytes, to align the numeric fields of subsequent entries on 2-byte boundaries. If padding is needed, a 0 byte is used. Finally, we have the System use field. Its function and size are undefined, except that it must be an even number of bytes. Different systems use it in different ways. The Macintosh keeps Finder flags here, for example.

Entries within a directory are listed in alphabetical order except for the first two entries. The first entry is for the directory itself. The second one is for its parent. In this respect, these entries are similar to the UNIX . and .. directory entries. The files themselves need not be in directory order.

There is no explicit limit to the number of entries in a directory. However, there is a limit to the depth of nesting. The maximum depth of directory nesting is eight.

ISO 9660 defines what are called three levels. Level 1 is the most restrictive and specifies that file names are limited to 8 + 3 characters as we have described, and also requires all files to be contiguous as we have described. Furthermore, it specifies that directory names be limited to eight characters with no extensions. Use of this level maximizes the chances that a CD-ROM can be read on every computer.

Level 2 relaxes the length restriction. It allows files and directories to have names of up to 31 characters, but still from the same set of characters.

Level 3 uses the same name limits as level 2, but partially relaxes the assumption that files have to be contiguous. With this level, a file may consist of several sections, each of which is a contiguous run of blocks. The same run may occur multiple times in a file and may also occur in two or more files. If large chunks of data are repeated in several files, level 3 provides some space optimization by not requiring the data to be present multiple times.

Rock Ridge Extensions

As we have seen, ISO 9660 is highly restrictive in several ways. Shortly after it came out, people in the UNIX community began working on an extension to make it possible to represent UNIX file systems on a CD-ROM. These extensions were named Rock Ridge, after a town in the Gene Wilder movie Blazing Saddles, probably because one of the committee members liked the film.

The extensions use the System use field in order to make Rock Ridge CD-ROMs readable on any computer. All the other fields retain their normal ISO 9660 meaning. Any system not aware of the Rock Ridge extensions just ignores them and sees a normal CD-ROM.

The extensions are divided up into the following fields:

  1. PX - POSIX attributes.

  2. PN - Major and minor device numbers.

  3. SL - Symbolic link.

  4. NM - Alternative name.

  5. CL - Child location.

  6. PL - Parent location.

  7. RE - Relocation.

  8. TF - Time stamps.

The PX field contains the standard UNIX rwxrwxrwx permission bits for the owner, group, and others. It also contains the other bits contained in the mode word, such as the SETUID and SETGID bits, and so on.

To allow raw devices to be represented on a CD-ROM, the PN field is present. It contains the major and minor device numbers associated with the file. In this way, the contents of the /dev directory can be written to a CD-ROM and later reconstructed correctly on the target system.

The SL field is for symbolic links. It allows a file on one file system to refer to a file on a different file system.

Probably the most important field is NM. It allows a second name to be associated with the file. This name is not subject to the character set or length restrictions of ISO 9660, making it possible to express arbitrary UNIX file names on a CD-ROM.

The next three fields are used together to get around the ISO 9660 limit of directories that may only be nested eight deep. Using them it is possible to specify that a directory is to be relocated, and to tell where it goes in the hierarchy. It is effectively a way to work around the artificial depth limit.

Finally, the TF field contains the three timestamps included in each UNIX i-node, namely the time the file was created, the time it was last modified, and the time it was last accessed. Together, these extensions make it possible to copy a UNIX file system to a CD-ROM and then restore it correctly to a different system.

Joliet Extensions

The UNIX community was not the only group that wanted a way to extend ISO 9660. Microsoft also found it too restrictive (although it was Microsoft's own MS-DOS that caused most of the restrictions in the first place). Therefore Microsoft invented some extensions that were called Joliet. They were designed to allow Windows file systems to be copied to CD-ROM and then restored, in precisely the same way that Rock Ridge was designed for UNIX. Virtually all programs that run under Windows and use CD-ROMs support Joliet, including programs that burn CD-recordables. Usually, these programs offer a choice between the various ISO 9660 levels and Joliet.

The major extensions provided by Joliet are

  1. Long file names.

  2. Unicode character set.

  3. Directory nesting deeper than eight levels.

  4. Directory names with extensions

The first extension allows file names up to 64 characters. The second extension enables the use of the Unicode character set for file names. This extension is important for software intended for use in countries that do not use the Latin alphabet, such as Japan, Israel, and Greece. Since Unicode characters are two bytes, the maximum file name in Joliet occupies 128 bytes.

Like Rock Ridge, the limitation on directory nesting is removed by Joliet. Directories can be nested as deeply as needed. Finally, directory names can have extensions. It is not clear why this extension was included, since Windows directories virtually never use extensions, but maybe some day they will.

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